Lakers-Nets game will be missing some star power

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving gathers with guard James Harden and forward Kevin Durant.
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, middle, gathers with James Harden and Kevin Durant against Golden State on Saturday.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

As a supreme competitor, LeBron James relishes the challenge that will come for him and his Lakers when they face the NBA’s latest supernova collection of talent that has been assembled with the Brooklyn Nets.

James probably wishes the Lakers were whole for this encounter against the Nets at Staples Center on Thursday night, but he and his teammates will be without All-Star forward Anthony Davis because he is sidelined with a strained right calf.

So, on the star meter, James will go it alone against Brooklyn’s dynamic threesome of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the newest group to form a Big Three. But Durant missed the last two games with a mild hamstring strain and was listed as out for the game and Irving missed the last game with lower back tightness and was listed as probable.


That means James and Harden are the only two stars suiting up for sure, but both bring along teams that are moving in the right direction.

The Lakers have won eight of their last 10 games and the Nets have won four straight.

“It’s always exciting for me to go against some of the best guys in the game, and they got three of them,” James said via video Tuesday night after the Lakers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves. “They got three of the best guys in the game.

Five takeaways from the Lakers’ 112-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night in Minneapolis.

Feb. 17, 2021

“Definitely would love to be full when you’re playing against a team like that and see, like, at that point in the season, how you match up, how you match up against some of the best teams in the league. And obviously we won’t be full on Thursday. But, other than that, yeah, I love going out there and just being out on the floor with some of the best to play this game.”

Durant leads the Nets in scoring, averaging 29 points per game. Irving is second at 28.3 and Harden is third at 24.3 — but he’s also averaging a league-best 11.8 assists per game.

From a historical standpoint, James was asked, has there been another team in the NBA with this much offensive firepower?


“Um, have we forgot about KD, Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson] already?” James asked the reporter, referring to the time Durant, Curry and Thompson played together in Golden State and won two NBA championships. “I mean, there you go. There you go right there.”

Still, the Nets have plenty of weapons that will make the Lakers work on defense.

Brooklyn is first in the league in scoring (121.7) and field-goal percentage (50.2%), third in three-point shooting (40.7%) and fourth in assists (27.4).

Now defense is another matter for the Nets. They give up 117.9 points per game, third most in the league.

“We go into every game with a game plan, know offensively, defensively what we want to do in order to win that game, and that’s going to be the same thing we’re going to have to do when we play on Thursday,” Lakers key reserve center Montrezl Harrell said on a videoconference Tuesday night. “There’s nothing no different. We’re not circling that game. We’re not putting any extra emphasis on that game. It’s just like any other game. We’re taking it one game at a time. We’re still learning, we’re still growing and we’re still building with one another and we’re gonna have to do it to a higher standard with losing one of our big pieces.”

Obviously that big piece is Davis. And without him available, that perhaps puts more of the burden on James.

But he mentioned how he has dealt with that before. He talked about Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade being injured at different junctures when they all played together with the Miami Heat, and t how Irving and Kevin Love missed games with injuries over different times when they were together in Cleveland.

With Anthony Davis sidelined, the Lakers will have to rely more on other players, which could help them in the long run.

Feb. 17, 2021

“So, I’ve had some big guns before go down and you just have to rally around them, keep them upbeat, but also the guys that are going to be in uniform in the lineup, they just need to step up their play,” James said about his teammates on the Lakers. “So, it’s something that … I don’t want to say I’m accustomed to because you don’t ever want to be accustomed to a player going down or a player having injuries. But I’ve been there before.”



When: 7 p.m Thursday.

On Air. TV — TNT; Radio: 710, 1330.

UPDATE: The Lakers are the third-best shooting team in the NBA, making 48.7% of their shots. But they are tied for fourth worst in turnovers (14.5) and tied for seventh worst in free-throw shooting (75.%).